Great Bay CC ready to storm the court
11/03/2015 by Mike Zhe
PORTSMOUTH — On Thursday night the lights come on, the training wheels come off and the newly-formed men’s basketball team at Great Bay Community College gets its first idea of how it stacks up against its peers.
“The thing is, you can plan all you want for what you think is going to happen,” said Great Bay coach Dave Sokolnicki this week, “but it’s pretty much trial by error.”
The inaugural season of basketball at the two-year college at Pease Tradeport goes live this week. The men will host Northern Essex CC in a non-conference game on Thursday (7:30 p.m.) in their new 400-seat gym, part of the $5 million Student Success Center project that began last year.
On Saturday, a doubleheader will feature the Great Bay women opening against conference foe Unity College (1 p.m.), followed by the men against Unity at 3 p.m.
Both teams compete in the 14-team Yankee Small College Conference, with 10 teams in each basketball league. The top eight teams in the standings will qualify for the conference tournament at the end of the season hosted by Central Maine CC.
The women’s team features a very familiar face. Markey Flewelling, who enjoyed a nice career at Portsmouth High School and played a season at Division III New England College, will slot in at point guard and run the offense.
The 5-foot-7 Flewelling started at NEC as a freshman and averaged 8.0 points. She transferred and walked on to the team at the University of New Hampshire, where she sat out the 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules and did not play in 2014-15.
“This just seemed to fit what she was looking for as far as school and her major,” said women’s coach Allyson Britton, a former player at the University of Bridgeport, “and the fact that we had basketball helped. She has college experience, which is a big plus for a team like us, and her leadership skills are going to help tremendously.”
Off guard Nichole Marrero, who played at Dover, and forward Ashley Lambert from Farmington are two other freshman players to watch. Jordyn Cronen, a former Traip Academy player who graduated in 2009, is also in the rotation.
The Heron women will head into the season with an eight-player roster, said Britton, with expectations of adding two more players in the spring semester. For now, getting minutes should not be a problem.
“The last few weeks we’ve been focusing on a lot of shooting drills, getting down our offense against man and zone (defenses), working on our defense and getting conditioned,” said Britton.
The men’s team has 13 players, several of them recognizable names. The team captains are Oyster River products Anthony Shea and Eric Leslie, former Newmarket player Vinnie Khounxay, and Tristan Arthur.
Sokolnicki coached for 13 years at Nichols College, a Division III school in Dudley, Mass., and the last three years at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where his teams played an up-tempo, go-for-broke style, running hard and shooting quickly from all over the court.
He said he’d prefer to follow that blueprint at Great Bay.
“Much of the same,” he said. “But it all depends on numbers. With 13, it’s going to allow us to do that. If we get down to 11, 10, we may have to change things up.
“People that come to watch our practices, the first thing they notice is the energy we have in our building.”
Generating school and community support has been a big focus of both programs. Some of the teams’ games will be broadcast on WTSN-AM 1270.
“WTSN has a proud tradition of bringing our listeners the best local sports action, and we’re really looking forward to the Herons being a part of that,” said sports director and play-by-play voice Justin McIsaac in a statement this week.
There is no admission for games. Britton, the only full-time employee in the athletic department, said she hopes to build community support, with students taking pride in the teams and local youth teams from the area playing games at halftime.
The defending champions in the YSCC for both men’s and women’s basketball are from the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vt. Central Maine CC, Vermont Tech and NHTI are also traditionally strong on the men’s side.
“There’s daily challenges,” said Sokolnicki. “For us right now, it’s just continuing getting better. We’re new to the league so we don’t know our competition. We’re working on building our culture.”